Valentines day is known for love poems, roses, and-you guessed it-chocolate. According to the National Confectioners Association, Americans buy almost $1 billion in sweets for Valentine's Day, and more than 30 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are sold. That's an awful lot of candy for a country that struggles with diabetes, obesity, and weight-related disorders.
The true meaning of Valentine's Day is expressing devotion to a dear one-not loading up on sugar. Here are some sweet ways to celebrate the holiday without candy.
A bowl of pomegranates. Pomegranates-a culinary symbol of Aphrodite, the goddess of love-have long been considered an aphrodisiac food. And they're high in disease-preventing antioxidants to keep your heart strong. Arrange them in a beautiful crystal bowl and include other sexy seasonal fruit, such as persimmons and kumquats. Tuck in a couple of small bottles of pomegranate juice, pomegranate tea, and pomegranate molasses, for a truly heart-loving gift. Our favorite finds: Lakewood Organic Pure Pomegranate Juice, Republic of Tea Pomegranate Green Tea, Cortas Pomegranate Molasses.
Muffins for your cupcake. Nutritious cupcakes or muffins baked in heart-shaped tins make a sweet, wholesome gift. Make it easy: Start with a gluten-free mix, add nuts, carrots, bananas, or applesauce for fiber and natural sweetness, and frost the muffins with a low-fat cream cheese frosting. Package them in a pastry box tied with a giant bow, and include a gift certificate for a calorie-free treat: a movie date, a massage, a facial or a special weekend trip. Our favorite finds: Arrowhead Mills Gluten Free Vanilla Cupcake Mix, Dr. Oetker Organic Carrot Muffin Mix, Pamela's Gluten-Free Frosting Mix.
Exotic condiments. The perfect gift for the chef you love: a collection of culinary treats, including a few high-end, pricey selections. Include saffron, gourmet salts, rose water, harissa, aged balsamic vinegar, and fig jams. Go all out and tuck a Shun knife into the basket, to make your chef swoon. Our favorite finds: A. Monteux Rose Flower Water, Mustapha's Moroccan Harissa, Manicardi Aged Balsamic Vinegar, Frontier Saffron, Palm Island Premium Bamboo Jade Salt, and Rigoni diAsiago Fiordifrutta, organic fruit spreads in Fig and other varieties.
Chocolate-scented candles make great calorie-free treats. Candles in rose and other floral scents are equally romantic. Choose soy or beeswax varieties, and make sure they're scented with essential oils or all-natural scents. Our favorite finds: Pacifica Mexican Cocoa Candle, Lumia Organic Lavender Love Soy Candles, Pacifica Egyptian Bergamot Rose Soy Candles, Tru Melange Love Soy Candle, Big Dipper Wax Works Cinnamon Candle in a heart-shaped tin.
Sparkling alcohol-free beverages. Champagne fuels desire, but too much leaves performance lacking. For clear-headed romantic encounters, buy your love an assortment of organic sparkling beverages, to have the fizz without fizzling out. You'll also find a selection of sophisticated, alcohol-free wine alternatives. Our favorite finds: 12 Noon to Midnight Rouge, VinSanté Wine Grape Beverage, R.W. Knudsen's Sparkling Organic Grape Juice, Sonoma Cider Mill Sparkler Organic Apple Cider, Martinelli's Sparkling Organic Apple Cider.
An aphrodisiac dinner. Start with simple, healthy appetizers: fresh or dried figs stuffed with goat cheese, steamed and chilled asparagus wrapped with thin slices of pickled ginger, or (responsibly harvested) caviar. For the main course, serve a lobster and avocado salad on a bed of arugula leaves tossed in truffle oil and sprinkled with pine nuts. Or go for the aphrodisiac standard: steamed oysters, served with drawn butter. Our favorite finds: The Little Pearl Caviar, La Tourangelle Infused White Truffle Oil, Haystack Mountain Goat Cheese, Made in Nature Dried Figs.
Essential flower oils. The custom of sending floral bouquets on Valentine's Day comes from an 18th century tradition. In the old custom, each flower in the bouquet had a specific meaning, which sent a nonverbal message. For a fresh, longer-lasting twist on the tradition, make a "bouquet" of pure essential flower fragrances-or buy a few for yourself to attract amour. Our favorite finds: Aura Cacia Love Potion, Kate's Magik Venus Potion, Wyndmere Rose Oil, Oshadi Romance Organic Essential Oil, Nemat Pink Lotus.
Chocolate-flavored beverages. Cocoa-scented coffee, tea, and other hot beverages offer a sugar-free way to enjoy chocolate. Buy an assortment and arrange them in a basket with a bouquet of fresh flowers. Our favorite finds: Numi Organic Chocolate Puerh tea, Yogi Mayan Cocoa Spice Tea, Republic of Tea Strawberry Chocolate Red Tea, Dean's Beans Mud Pie Coffee, Teecino Mocha Herbal Coffee.
Raw chocolate. Can you imagine an organic, sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, completely raw chocolate treat that tastes good? A few enterprising chocolatiers did, and came up with high-end raw chocolates made entirely from dried fruits, nuts, raw cacao beans and other unprocessed ingredients. They're not calorie-free, but they're the closest you can get to really healthy chocolate. Our favorite finds: Navitas Naturals Organic Raw Cacao Nibs, Righteously Raw Organic Goji Chocolate Bar, Lydia's Organic Cacao Crunch Bar, Everything Raw Indigo Nights Organic Fudge Bar, Life Opening Chocolate Climax Bar.